Laura always had the misfortune of being a disorganized perfectionist. It absolutely killed her to be late; but her suitcase was on one side of her apartment, and then her ticket was still in the kitchen drawer, and then she left her purse in her closet, and by the time she found her phone…
Well, she was more than a little red in the face when her feet hit the deck of the boat, a suitcase handle clutched tightly in each hand.
It was a beautiful ship, small, white and polished. Laura could see sunlight glittering off the surface of a pool in the distance. She took a breath, letting the ocean air fill her lungs. The change of scenery was exactly what she needed. Laura was feeling more inspired already.
Laura turned around. The girl addressing her was tying her hair into a low auburn bun at the back of her head, and was obviously part of the crew. She wore a purple uniform polo with the logo for All for One Cruiselines on the breast pocket, and a nametag above it that read Hello, My name is Portia.
“Did you just arrive?” She asked, to which Laura began to say yes. Before the word could even finish leaving her lips, Portia started speaking rapidly.
“Welcome to the USS One for All!” She said cheerfully, “I’m Portia, and I’ll be organizing all of the activities during your stay--please take this brochure, it’ll have a schedule for everything that we’re doing.”
Laura already had her hands full, so she settled for grabbing the brochure in her teeth.
“The dinner buffet starts at seven, so in the meantime, feel free to look around. We’ll be starting our voyage soon--please enjoy your stay!”
Laura’s hands and mouth were full, so she settled on nodding and trying to smile the best she could around the laminated paper. Portia waved goodbye and scampered off, presumably to hand off brochures to more passengers. Well, the staff seemed friendly at least, if she was any indication…
Laura looked for the stairs, walking down to the lower deck. When she found her room--room 307--she dropped her suitcases, took the brochure out of her mouth, and grabbed the room key from her khakis to unlock the door.
The accommodations weren’t five star, but they weren’t bad either. The room was small, with dark blue walls and white carpet; Laura threw her suitcases on the bed, right underneath what looked to be a painting of Neptune.
“Two weeks,” Laura sighed, laying down and looking up at the ceiling, “this better help.”
The first thing Laura decided to do was lounge by the pool. She left the brochure on her dresser; she’d skimmed it quickly before she left, but she went on this vacation to work, and that’s what she was going to buckle down and do. Laura flipped open her notebook and uncapped her pen.
She wrote a line. Crossed it out, tried again, scribbled out a word and changed it, then scribbled out the entire sentence. Forced herself to write a full page before disgust at her own writing forced her to put a huge X through all of it.
“Come on, Laura,” she mumbled to herself, “you’ve done it before. Just think.”
She was sitting poolside in the sun on a gorgeous summer day. If this didn’t clear her mind, nothing would. There was a point where she became so frustrated that she tore a page out, crumpling it into a ball and blindly throwing it away.
Laura put her pen back to the paper. She got in three more lines of stilted dialogue.
Laura glanced up. The girl arched an eyebrow at her, holding up a wet ball of paper.
“You threw this?”
Laura’s eyes widened. “Um…”
“At my head?”
“Not on purpose!”
She was still frowning at Laura, but the animosity in her gaze was gone. She raked her fingers through blonde hair that reached just past the shoulder straps of her bathing suit.
“...Well, thought you should know to be careful not to accidentally chuck paper into the pool,” she said, and then continued, “you seem really familiar but I can’t figure out why.”
“My name is Laura Hollis....?”
The realization dawned on her face and she smiled. “Oh my God, are you seriously? My sister loves you. I must have recognized your face from the back of your book.”
She held out a hand. “Jo March. Nice to meet you!”
Laura closed her notebook and shifted so that she was sitting Indian style, hands in her lap. She still wasn’t used to being recognized. “She is, huh?”
“Seriously, when I tell Beth you’re here she’s going to freak.”
Jo bit her lip, rubbing her hands excitedly. “Hey, are you here by yourself?”
She grinned broadly. “Want to have dinner with my sisters?”
Jo seemed nice, and she definitely wasn’t going to say no to meeting a fan, so she had no problem agreeing to have dinner with the Marches.
“So...Laura...you’re here to try and work on your new book?” Meg asked.
Laura nodded, grabbing an egg roll off her plate and taking a bite. “I thought getting away for a few weeks would help jumpstart things. Of course I also kind of wanted to celebrate the first one, and I’ve never been on a cruise anyways…”
She nodded. Laura didn’t blame Meg for the slight awkwardness; Jo had apparently neglected to mention that she was bringing a guest. Not to mention the fact that Beth hadn’t said a single word to Laura the entire time. She preferred to stare at Laura nervously when she thought no one was looking.
Starstruck. Laura actually had someone starstruck. She was torn between feeling uncomfortable and kind of wanting to brag to someone about it.
“We are here to celebrate my finally transitioning into the realm of adulthood!” Amy chirped, sitting up straighter in her seat.
“...She just graduated,” Meg explained.
“We had a long year and a half and we’ve needed a vacation pretty badly--especially Beth. Right, Beth?”
Laura nodded politely. Beth looked at Laura, smiling uneasily and nodding. With a sudden burst of will she said in one quick nervous breath:
“I spent some time in the hospital and my sisters bought me your book I love What Would Mina Harker Do it’s just...it’s really good.”
She looked down at her plate shyly, and Laura felt her face heat up.
“Wow...wow, thank you. That is so nice of you to say. I’m happy my silly little college vampire romance helped you through that.”
“It was still better than Twilight,” Jo said with a slight laugh.
Beth, slightly encouraged at Laura’s response, asked “Are you trying to write the sequel…?”
“I don’t know what I’m trying to write,” Laura answered, “just...you know...something.”
“I think coming here was a great idea,” Amy declared, “as an artist myself I find a change of scenery definitely helps me.”
“Well it hasn’t done much for me so far,” Laura said with a slight sigh.
“It’s only been one day,” Meg said, “you should take a break from thinking about it. Believe me, I know what can happen if you get too stressed out about work.”
“You end up getting drunk and uploading a video about it onto the internet,” Jo said, eliciting a glare from her older sister. Laura knew better than to press it.
“I’m going to get dessert and go back up to my room,” Laura said, standing, “it was really nice to meet you guys. Especially you, Beth, seriously.”
Beth managed a wave.
“We have two weeks here, we should all hang out again!” Jo said.
Laura said goodbye to the rest of them and walked away, filling her plate with as many cookies as she could. She really, really needed some sugar.
The truth was the book wasn’t just some stupid little vampire romance, of course; it was a little vampire romance Laura ground out in desperation. It was the first novel she ever finished, let alone published. And now she finally achieved her dream of successful authorship only to face the possibility that yes, she was a one book wonder.
So it was kind of hard to take Meg’s advice and drop the problem for a few days.
She shoved a cookie into her mouth and went back to her room.
“First order of business: Ariana do you ever wash your uniform?”
Ariana looked down at herself, noting the smudges of oil and grease on the collar or her heather gray uniform. “I’m chief engineer, Cap. This kind of comes with the job?”
“You are the head of technical, we have mechanics who do that for you.”
“Like I trust them.”
Dorothy shook her head. “At least tell me it’s running smoothly?”
Ariana grinned, leaning against the wall of Dorothy’s cabin. “Well, thanks to my hands on involvement,” she said, “you can rest assured that this cheap tin can will last at least one more voyage.”
“Ria, that’s not a nice thing to say about the One for All,” Portia said, frowning at her from her perch on the windowsill, “it isn’t Anne’s fault money has been tighter lately.”
“Doesn’t change the fact that it’s held together with bobby pins and glue.”
“Portia? What’s going on with guest services?” Dorothy asked. She clapped her hands together.
“All of the guests seem so happy with all the activities so far!” She gushed, “we had bingo, and that was fun, and then later I hosted a movie, and tomorrow there’s going to be a trivia contest that I think will go over really well. Everything in the kitchen ran smoothly tonight and the food tasted delicious.”
“...Were you sneaking food out of the kitchen again?”
“Just to make sure it was up to our standards!” Portia answered defensively.
“As of right now we’re going the right way,” she answered, “and you seem a little flustered, Dorothy, is there a reason why?”
“No. Everything is going well, we’re good,” Dorothy answered, still pacing back and forth, “this is going to go well. Nothing will go wrong.”
“We never said something might--chill, Cap,” Ariana said, “you’ve got seasoned crew members here to keep things going.”
Dorothy stopped. She looked out the window, out to the ocean. “...I’ll call you all tomorrow, same time, okay?” She said, “Good, uh...good first day everyone. You know. All for one and one for all.”
Alex, Portia, and Ariana looked at each other; Alex’s silent give her some room was all the confirmation the other two needed to get back to work and leave Dorothy alone. Before she could turn away from the window, the door opened again.
“...I’m sorry, I had to make a phone--wow, did I miss the entire meeting?”
Dorothy turned around. “Connie! Hey. It was a short meeting.”
“Well, in any case, I’m happy to report that nothing has gone wrong.”
Dorothy sat down at her desk. Connie watched her for a moment before she walked in, leaning against the side and looking at her.
“So you seem kind of sort like you’re going to be sick.”
“It’s kind of weird to want to be a ship captain when you get seasick.”
Dorothy shook her head. “Look, you know, this is just...it’s my first time as Captain, y’know? I don’t want to let anyone down. I want this to go well.”
“It will go well. Anne hired you for a reason, you know. She picked you over her own cousin.”
“You didn’t want to be Captain. Fact.”
“And I’m glad I’m Staff Captain instead, because you’re better than me anyway. I haven’t been dreaming about this since I was, like, five.”
“I mean, I imagined more sailing uncharted land, not travelling well known routes. But this is probably the closest thing to an explorer I’ll get,” Dorothy said. She sighed, resting her chin in her hand. “Plus, you know, things have been getting more dangerous lately...the last thing I need is a pirate attack--”
“Don’t even joke about that. They don’t usually travel along this way. We chose this route because there hasn’t been an incident yet, remember?”
“I just don’t want to let anyone down.”
“You must be excited though?”
“Of course I’m excited!” Dorothy exclaimed, “I’ve worked my whole life for this. It’s awesome and--man, just look at the ocean Connie. Who wouldn’t be excited about getting to see that outside their window the rest of their lives?”
Connie followed Dorothy’s gaze out the window. “I get what you mean,” she said, “you know, Anne always said we were born to be sailors. That’s why our eyes are so blue, because we have the ocean in our blood.” She wrinkled her nose slightly. “Anne has always been kind of weird.”
“I think that’s kind of cool.”
“You would. You know,” she looked at Dorothy, “you look like you were meant to be a captain.”
“What, this?” Dorothy said, pulling at her starched white collar, “I mean, I do think I look pretty fancy in this hat.”
“Except your collar is buttoned wrong.”
Connie leaned in, nimbly unbuttoning and buttoning. Dorothy sucked in a breath.
“Thanks,” Dorothy said, locking eyes with Connie.
“Yeah…uh, I’m going to go, I promised I’d call back and--bye.”
As soon as Connie closed the door, Dorothy leaned her head back and closed her eyes.
Connie was right.
There was no reason to be nervous.
Besides, she’d fight anyone that messed with her passengers anyway.